Alice woke up to a loud, continuous banging at the door. "Ah!" She cried softly, while trying to sit up. It was morning. The rays of the sun had crept in through the open window, illuminating the room.
There were lots of activities outside, both from cars, people and even domestic animals. Morning had come sooner than she had expected, considering she went to bed late, 12:16AM to be precise.
The night before, she got in at about 9:15. The hostel was quiet but some of her hostel mates were still awake and out, taking fresh air.
Alice didn't really know how tired she was until she got into her room and dropped her bag on the table. Then she realized she was too tired to read or go through her class assignments. All she could afford was food and a hot bath. She went straight to bed after that.
Although it was now morning and she was still determined to get her rest, she couldnt ignore the pounding on the door. It took her sometime but, she eventually she got out of bed. Rubbing away the ache from her forehead and joints, she wobbled to the door and managed to open it.
"At last!" Bruno announced as he stepped in. Been a young man in his mid twenties, he was slightly older than Alice and two levels ahead of her. He was about 6ft in height, chocolate brown in complexion and had well built muscles. A clean low cut sat comfortably on his oval head and as usual, his outfit was a blue, cooperate long-sleeved shirt on black trouser. A black school bag hung from his left shoulder.
Bruno was Alice's friend. Although they stayed in the same hostel, they didn't become friends until two weeks back when they met at a mutual friend's party. None had expected to meet the other there, so it was a surprise. That night, they danced, cracked jokes and did all sort of fun games together. Everyone who saw them thought they were a couple. However, since that evening, they became best of friends; although with a boundary. Knowing Bruno to be sexually active, Alice never allowed him spend the night in her room; neither did she spend the night in his. The way he looked at her sometimes told her he probably wished he could be intimate with her, and she didn't want that.
"What are you doing here, Bruno?" Alice asked, making her way back to her bed. "Aren't you supposed to be in school? I thought you told me last night that you have a 7 o'clock class this morning?"
"That's the point." Bruno said, towering over her. "As journalists in the making, our lecturer sent us out to cover a story presently making waves on campus. Now, you can't just write a story and publish it without first knowing the details."
"Oh, I get where you are going." Alice sighed and threw herself back on the bed. "You want me to go with you to get your details. Bruno, I didn't get home early last night and I didn't sleep until past 12 this morning. I'm tired and I have a class by 2 this afternoon. Please allow me ..."
"You wouldn't think of sleeping if I told you the latest news on campus." He cut her short. "In other words, the news I'm going to cover."
"Go tell that news to your lecturer." She fired at him. "He was the one who sent you out to get stories."
"When I called you last night, where did you say you were?" Bruno asked, ignoring her out burst.
"I said I was at the health center, dummy."
"I'm not a dummy. I just want to be sure before I proceed."
"Proceed to do what, exactly?"
"Look. You said you were watching over a guy who was badly beaten."
"Yes, I was."
"Was he ok before you left?"
"Yes he was. The doctor said he was out of harm's way."
"What time did you leave the health center?"
"Some minutes to 9 o'clock. Why?"
"Was there anybody in the boy's room when you left?"
"For goodness sake, Bruno! Where are you going with all these questions? You sound like a detective."
"Hmmmm..." Bruno sighed and looked away. "The boy is dead, Alice." He announced, sadly."
"Which boy is dead?" Alice asked. Her heart beat doubled as she propped herself up on one elbow.
"The one you said you were with last night. Was there someon...."
"That is not possible. When I left he was ok and his brother....."
"He has a brother?" Bruno cut her short.
"Yes! He took over the watch after I left." As she finally sat up on the bed, her mind went back to the previous night. She remembered the look on the poor boy's face when he talked about being threatened. Then her mind went to his brother. Was it possible that boy wasn't really his brother? Alice thought. Or was he there to kill the already suffering boy?
"So," Bruno said, cutting into her thought. "The person they arrested was his brother."
"What?" Alice asked, startled. "What in God's name are you talking about? This is too much news for one morning."
"Look, there is a story here that we need to unravel." Bruno said, seriously. "We need to know who beat that boy up, who killed him and why his brother is being arrested."
"And I need to know if our neighbour is truly his brother."
"Neighbour?" It was Bruno's turn to be surprised.
"Yes neighbour, our neighbour." Alice replied. "You know the guy that lives in the last flat of the building opposite ours? The one who owns that red Camry?"
"Oh, oh. You mean Tunde?"
"I don't know his name." Alice threw up her hands in frustration.
"Wow! This is even more interesting." Bruno said. "You help a guy who happens to be brother to our neighbour. Now he is dead and the neighbour brother is arrested. The crime is around us, Alice. Let us solve this together."
"I can't, Bruno." She objected. "I did my best for that poor boy, yesterday. If his brother was arrested, then maybe he truly killed him. Maybe they aren't even brothers."
"That's my thought, exactly. But come on, Alice! Let's not let this opportunity pass us by."
"You know what? I have a better Idea. I'll just go back to sleep and pretend I didn't..."
"Ko, ko, ko!" A loud knock at the door interrupted her.
"Ohhhhhh! Who is it again?" Alice complained
"The police." A male voice came from the other side of the door. "We are looking for Alice Ogunnabi."
"I'm Alice." She said after opening the door. "Is there any problem, sir?"
"There is a murder case in which you are a valid witness. We need you to give an account of what happened last night. That is all." The first officer, a fat man in his mid-forties said.
"Nothing much. I..."
"You will have to come with us to the station." The second officer, a slim, young man in his early thirties, interrupted her.
"What? You want to arrest me?" She cried out, bewildered.
"Nobody is arresting you. We only want to talk." The first officer said, easing her fears. "We got an anonymous tip-off this morning from someone who claims that you were with the diseased last night. Also the man we have in custody says you are his witness. Your account of what happened will prove him either innocent or guilty." He explained.
"Ok. But I have to shower first, please."
"Go ahead." The first officer agreed. "You have thirty minutes though.
"Can I come too?" Bruno blurted out from where he stood.
The next hour met Alice and Bruno sitting at the reception of the police station. Since their arrival, they had been waiting for the inspector in charge of the case. Alice had overheard one officer telling another that the inspector was very busy.
By her side, Bruno sat uneasy. He looked worried being in a police station and it surprised Alice.
"If you knew you don't like this place, why did you come?" Alice teased.
"I came to support you. You never can tell what these police officers are up to."
"Oh dear me! I forgot I have a guardian angel." She said , chuckling.
He shook his head wearily at her remark. Absent mindedly, he zipped his bag open and fumbled in it for a while. Finally, a small tape recorder emerged.
"What are you doing with that?" Alice asked, frowning.
"I'm trying to decide if to record the questioning or not."
"Don't bother. The officers may not take kindly to it. By the way, I'm not here for interrogation. I'm only giving a statement."
"True." He was putting the small, box like recorder into his pocket when a police woman came over to stand in front of them. The 45 years old officer was about the same height as Alice; very slim and well shaped in the right places. Her dark skin glowed ever so beautifully. A black beret with the coat of arm in front of it, rested peacefully on her head. However, her V-shaped face held no expression as she eyed the duo briefly. They later got to know that she was Mrs. Efete, a chief inspector in the police force.
"Good morning ma." The youngsters chorused, randomly.
"Write your statement here." She said, ignoring their greetings and handing a blank sheet over to Alice. "Submit it when you're through." That done, she turned and walked away, almost as abruptly as she had come
"Wow! She sounds mean." Bruno said
"You had better not let her hear you." Alice said, feeling inside her bag for a biro.
"And she looks mean too."
"If she hears you and decides to kill you, I'm not going to lift a finger to help." Alice warned.
"Ok, ok I hear."
Alice spent the next fifteen minutes writing down her statement. When she was through, she went over to the counter to submit it.
"I still have questions for you." Inspector Efete said, sternly. She had just emerged again from her office, in time to see that Alice had written her statement.
"Come with me." She ordered, after going through the statement.
With her heart pounding hard against her chest, Alice followed the Inspector into a dark passage and then into an office. The windows were wide open and the drapes, pulled apart, allowing sun and fresh air easy passage. The room was surprisingly neat and well furnished for an office in a police station, or so she thought.
"Sit!" The Inspector ordered, before taking her own seat. Like an obedient child, Alice sat without complaining. "So, do you know the accused? Personally?"
"No. But I know him."
"How?" She demanded.
"He lives in the hostel opposite mine."
"Do you two relate well?"
"No. We don't even talk to each other."
"Not even in greeting?"
"So how come you helped his brother yesterday?"
"Well, he was hurt. I couldn't just walk away."
"Taking him to the health center would have been enough. Why did you stay with him? And into the late hours of the day?"
"It wasn't that late. I left the center at about thirty minutes past eight. Besides, I felt responsible for him."
"You felt responsible? Or you felt guilty?"
"Excuse me ma, where are you going with this?"
"Answer the question." The expression on her face was enough to tell Alice to cooperate.
"Responsibility. I was the only person there. I couldn't leave him."
"For how long did you know the diseased?"
"I didn't know him at all. Yesterday was the first time I ever saw him."
To be continued....
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